Entebbe Literacy Project

Putnam Rotarians reach out to Uganda orphans

Bob Keely 01
Robert A. Keely

Kayongo / Casto

Three years ago Putnam's Dianna Casto (right) visited the Entebbe projects with Uganda Rotarian Jeff Kayongo.

March 25, 2014

When Putnam's Chet Marshall led a business leadership seminar in the east African republic of Uganda nearly ten years ago, he found a nation of two million children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

At the Divine Secondary School near Entebbe, Marshall saw food prepared over fire pits for eighty children. The cook was paid $12 a month. The school/orphanage had no electricity or safe drinking water.

Marshall returned the following year with $2,700 for books, desks and equipment for the children. Putnam Rotary had adopted the program as an international help project and matched a gift of $500 by Marshall.

A few months later, other groups joined with Putnam Rotary in a unique mission to provide food and cash to the orphanage. A thousand vaccinated baby chicks were purchased for the children.

A substantial brick shelter was built to house the young flock, and when the chicks matured they moved into a coop and the brick building was remodeled into a dormitory for children.

Now there was more room for living quarters, and there were fresh eggs to eat and sell. And the droppings from the chicken coop represented fertilizer for gardening to grow vegetables.

Service through Rotary

Which brings us to the program Putnam Rotarians heard today from Bob Keely, a past president of the local club and a district officer in Rotary for southern West Virginia.

The Rotary International organization includes 34,000 clubs with 1.2 million members, Keely told the group. That means that Rotarians can join with other Rotarians, when governments are unable or unwilling to help.

Numbers and rigorous supervision, said Keely, are the tools used by the Rotary Foundation to make sure funds are used wisely and efficiently.

Rotary supports volunteers like the Beckley club's Jim Ferguson going door-to-door in the Mershittabad district of India to immunize children against polio. And Nitro's

Jeff Kayongo distributing books to children at the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Entebbe.

Munbe / Kayongo

Children thank Rotarians Jeff Kayongo and Edith Munbe (left side) for their new books and the help from Putnam County in West Virginia.

Shelly Hodges who personally carries medical supplies donated by Fruth Pharmacy to children in Haiti's Fort Liberté.

"Rotary Foundation won't fund a project," says Keely, "unless they have solid reports and absolute assurance that the resources are going for the purposes intended."

And the Foundation encourages local efforts with matching grants, he said. Rotary has given personal dictionaries to Putnam students for the past seven years through matching district grants.

Now, back to Africa

Chet Marshall met Jeff Kayongo in Uganda, and sponsored Jeff as a new member in the Rotary Club of Entebbe. Kayongo later became president of Entebbe Rotary and the club partnered with Putnam Rotary in West Virginia.

As a Rotarian on site, Kayongo carries out the mission to Ugandan orphans in a way which bypasses the inefficiencies of unstable bureaucracies.

In cooperation with Jeff Kayongo's Entebbe Rotary, the Putnam club has provided safe drinking water to the Divine Secondary School and an SOS Children's Village in Uganda.

And the good works were multiplied as other groups came on board -- the Poca Baptist Church, Vandalia Rotary in Charleston and London's Westminster West Rotary. And Rotarian Steve Patrick donated his $1,000 raffle prize to the children of Entebbe.

But in addition to the chickens, and dormitory and safe drinking water, the mission to Uganda continues.

Putnam Rotary is sending 612,598 Ugandan shillings to Jeff Kayongo and the Entebbe club for children's books and school supplies. Putnam already has money on hand for the new literacy project, and Kayongo, for his part, is personally contributing some 428,000 UGX (Ugandan shillings).

That may sound like high finance. The Putnam grant represents an exchange of only $200, but it means opening doors in math, science and literature -- and opportunity -- for the orphans in east Africa.

More Putnam Rotary News? Click HERE.